Hey! Nice of you to stop by. I’ll give a short review of this surprisingly concise book.
Warning: Spoilers. Also warning: if you aren’t a gamer, and aren’t interested in gamer culture, you might not get a lot out of this book. On the other hand, even if you aren’t, I see a lot of value in this book due to the way the technology is portrayed. That being said, this is fun literature that brought a lot of nostalgia and gamer humor to my reading, which initially pulled me in and kept me interested throughout.
I don’t review so often as I’d like. I used to have a pattern to keep the layout clean and concise, but I currently can’t find the template. I apologize if this goes all over the place a little bit.
Ernest Cline wrote Ready Player One in 2011. It’s his debut novel, science fiction (though not too far in the future), and it covers a wide range of topics. It covers serious social issues and the escapism that is prevalent in video games, while also highlighting the importance of understanding that the video game doesn’t kill the person; the person has the choice.
The story follows young, poor, friendless Wade (Parzival) as he attends an online school founded within a massive online environment called OASIS, a program created by an eccentric man named Halliday, who obsessed over coding video games the way Mozart obsessed over music. OASIS incorporates all the noteworthy aspects of World of Warcraft, Pueblo, porn, and other sites to create a multiplanetary system of expensive digital existence. In doing so, OASIS also leads most of society into a spiral where most of the infrastructure is failing and society is collapsing. Parzival hints several times that OASIS is partly to blame for the real world rot. Halliday dies, and in a twist, puts in his will that he coded a scavenger hunt within the OASIS system to deliver his 400 billion dollar estate to some lucky winner.
In doing so, and in presenting several guidebooks to help find the three “keys,” “gates,” and eventually the “egg” of riches, Halliday’s death ignites a shift in sociopolitical focus back to the heyday of the 1980’s. Parzival becomes a
vault hunter “gunter” and spends his entire life obsessed over the information Halliday collected over his life. He makes friends along the way, nasty corporations intervene to try and control everything, the world is full of pain and weakness and corporate militias. It’s a well-realized world.
If you think this is your bag, jump in.
My Personal Thoughts:
With 80’s pop culture references that go sour after the first half of the book (and in several instances near the end, Cline needed to pull from 70’s references), and a character who begins as a poor nothing-nobody in the first third, a super-balanced gamer in the second third, and a professional cyber hacker in the third third of the book, I found it difficult to adequately believe he could have accomplished what he did in the year and a half expanse of this book (He was a senior in high school in the first third at 18 years old, ready to graduate, his friend Art3mis said she was a year older and in college at 19, and at the final third of the book it was said she was 20 during the final run). He made it painfully clear how poor he was at the beginning, but by the end made constant references to “places he’d visited” throughout his life in OASIS, despite not having any money whatsoever to travel until he found the first key.
Cline knows tech. And well enough to write with authority. This is refreshing. I loved how IOI, the evil corporation that wants the money for itself, also owns most of the telecomm industry, most of the shipping industry, and most of the data development industry. This is brilliant. It is rationalized well, and the idea of the corporation having its on police force is really unsettling, though not too far off in our country, methinks. With a focus on the way the people tap into the OASIS program that constantly gave input really helped me immerse in this book.
I could follow most of the twists really easily. I think that’s the point: anyone with a strong working knowledge of the 80’s and gamer culture could figure out the twists of this book possibly faster than the rest of the characters. At first I was a little frustrated–this plot is so simple!–but then I thought, whoa, this book was written for people like me. Without the background of the 80’s, old computers, old Atari games, this would make for a far more enjoyable and surprising book.
A lot of his foreshadowing seemed injected. Every time Cline introduced some seemingly random piece of information that didn’t have to do with the MC, his love life, or the 80’s, I knew it was something to be used later. But he didn’t try to hide it, either. Quarters falling in his inventory but not being able to be removed fit perfectly into the plot in the most important moment. The second developer’s home layout fit perfectly to the discussion later in the book. Everything fit neatly, as if it was added in a later draft.
Furthermore a lot of sentences seemed to stick out as if the editing wasn’t done so well. Like the reader was supposed to know something as common knowledge before it was said, a few paragraphs or pages or even chapters ahead of the reveal. Maybe it was me reading it, and I’m pretty vigilant about that, but it threw me off a few times.
Overall, a great book. There’s a lot to be read for the complexities of technology and how things work. I’m glad Cline went where he did with this book.